Wednesday, I walked down to the Super Bowl parade.
Now: I am deeply troubled by the complete bullshit that is naming the team “Chiefs,” and the accompanying creepy racist shit that grows on its edges like a bad fungus.
My friend lives across the street. I loaded up a backpack, and defended my decision to attend by comparing myself to Traveling Matt, a Fraggle explorer of the non-Fraggle world. Anthropological research.
And I’ve set up this life, where I can walk a lot with my friends, we can walk places, drink and eat, and walk some more. Midwestern life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that lifestyle, but I’ve got it set up, and I love it.
So I put on my backpack, and we watched the streets fill with parked cars the minute we crossed 33rd Street, going north.
We got to another friend’s house, the party house. I am deeply appreciative, having lived far away where on celebratory occasions I was begging, borrowing, or stealing invitations to socialize. I’m back. Now I can show up somewhere, open doors without knocking, get my own drinks, and use the upstairs bathroom.
The Super Bowl falls during Mardi Gras season, which meant this event felt like a sort of extra bonus Mardi Gras. Some of my usual Mardi Gras colleagues were there in some of their usual Mardi Gras wear. I, too, had chosen to wear a bright red beret that has my krewe name on it. All our red gear was being utilized.
There was coffee, Irish cream, whiskey, leftover legendary Mardi Gras punch. There were a couple of kids who got interested in the fake fireplace. I enjoyed freaking out when they touched it, as if they would burst into flames. And theatrically touching the plastic logs myself, yelping in pain.
We marched, which again is so usual for this group, the thing that was strange was that a ton of other people were also marching. We had cow bells. I tethered mine to my backpack, which got me in touch with my inner cow. Union Station, the belly of the celebration beast, is down the hill from us, down the hill into where one of the main train track lines goes through Kansas City. So we were walking, tumbling towards everything. One of our cohort was recently injured, so her wheelchair doubled as a wonderfully portable beer cooler.
I had a coffee cup I was reusing for wine, and the bottle in my backpack.
We stopped in at another classic Kansas City Mardi Gras location, snagged a table. I shared my gummi bears with the kids, who were already starting to fade. A lot of walking, a lot of cowbell, a lot of jovial grownups.
I hightailed it over to where the parade was. The enormous crowds were hard to absorb or process, as they would be in any downtown with buildings of considerable size. We could look up Grand, the parade’s route, and see all the red, red, red up to the train station, and up the hill beyond, beyond, beyond.
Mostly the celebration was chatting with friends on a day I wouldn’t get to chat with them.
Open containers were tolerated, police and sheriffs seemed to be cool. They would ask people who climbed tall things to come back down, but otherwise, they were cool with the booze and pot and celebrating, and there was no reason for them to worry, as far as I could tell.
The parade itself had stretched itself s o o o o l o o o o n g that my experience was ringing my cowbell madly for people on half-empty double decker busses, then waiting another 15 minutes. I was warm. I had dressed well. Planes pulling banners circled overhead, advertising booze and Jungle Law. A few helicopters hovered. It was post-apocalyptic, everything was out of joint, but not in the way we’ve recently experienced it. It was a happy, and thank God, safe time-out from the grind of being a human being. At least for some of us.
There was one dude wearing a feather headdress. I didn’t have to listen to any fake native chanting or chopping or whatever. For which I am grateful.
The players had apparently gotten off the busses early in the parade, so by the time they got to us, I saw That One Dude throw someone a football from the top of the bus. (He is hosting “SNL” soon.) The football hit some overhead wires. He doesn’t normally throw footballs in the city, of course.
I guess there were speeches and things to hear and cheer for and see at Union Station, but I was feeling like I’d had enough fun, and I hadn’t had a proper meal yet. So my friend and I hiked back up the hill.
The way cars were parked was very amusing. Midwestern people are generally such rule-followers (I fit in better in oh yeah make me NYC), and to see them park with wild abandon made me happy for their humble souls. This part of the midwest isn’t as ragingly alcoholic as some northern cities. It isn’t as aggressive as the east coast. It isn’t as relaxed as the west coast. It was good to see people drinking, jubilant, and relaxed.
While I have always been and continue to be infuriated by the team name and its associations, I also see that civic celebrations can heal. The racism of the team name is upsetting, and at the same time, the coming together to celebrate is a very positive force for race relations in Kansas City now. Having the team hero be the nicest guy in the world doesn’t hurt, either. I don’t know shit about football, but I know he seems like a good guy to celebrate.
When I got home, I had walked six miles, had an Irish coffee and a glass of wine and a doughnut, and I was more than happy to nap the afternoon away.